TruScreen director Tim Preston threw down a challenge to other board members in opting not to seek re-election at yesterday's annual meeting, saying the NZAX-listed cervical cancer test developer's governance needs greater diversity and a wider skill set.
Preston, a founder of corporate advisory firm CM Partners, joined the TruScreen board in 2014 before its compliance listing that year and had unanimous board support for re-election in the notice of meeting to shareholders on September 5. However, the company today said he withdrew his nomination and the resolution wasn't put to shareholders. The National Business Review reported that media were barred from yesterday's meeting.
Preston told BusinessDesk his decision was "a statement to the board and all our shareholders that it is time to refresh the board, look at our diversity and get the right people at the top for the next phase of TruScreen's journey." He said he was brought on the board ahead of the public float because of his expertise in capital markets. Today, TruScreen's board needs "people who know how to roll out a major product in international markets," he said.
Preston also said he has been a "bit of a champion over the past 12 months around the board table" saying the company is a cervical cancer screening company but has no women on the board.
He said he had planned to re-stand but then had a "really good think about it" and hoped his decision would be a catalyst as "boards are not collegiate things, they are not forever and they are ever evolving and it's my responsibility as an independent director to make sure there are proper people in place on the board to take it to the next stage," he said.
"It was a bit of a moralistic statement about what I believe about how boards should behave," he said.
TruScreen's board appears to have accepted Preston's advice.
"Mr Preston's retirement from the board allows TruScreen to identify and appoint a new director with appropriate skills and capabilities who will add value to the company as we move into the commercial growth phase of our journey and build our global presence," chief executive Martin Dillon told BusinessDesk.
Chair Robert Hunter told shareholders yesterday the company's ability to fully begin its commercialisation phase in the current financial year was hampered by delays in gaining of CFDA approval in China. However, CEO Dillon said it anticipates receiving approval in the third quarter and "will then quickly move to commercialise TruScreen2 in the eight provinces in China where we already have pricing approval and distributor arrangements."
TruScreen's test uses a digital wand, which is placed on the surface of the cervix, to measure electrical and optical signals from the surrounding tissue and can operate outside the traditional laboratory infrastructure to give immediate test results.
The company also announced its commercial capability in China has been expanded, with the addition of the BioChem Group (China Health Labs & Diagnostics Ltd) as a sub-distributor.
"China is a primary target market and BioChem will add significantly to our distribution capabilities within China," it said. BioChem has expertise in the distribution of medical products and services into Chinese government programs and will focus on the delivery of TruScreen products to the thousands of county and village level healthcare centres throughout China.
Hunter also said the company continues to focus on expanding its footprint and is currently negotiating agreements with seven new markets, covering a screening population of 85 million. However, it remains firmly focused on China, India, Russia and Mexico, it said.
In India, Dillon said the company has commenced the first stage of a process to have TruScreen validated in-country. "We expect this clinical evaluation to be completed by calendar year-end and hopefully obtain an undertaking from the Indian government sometime in 2018," he said.
In Mexico, the evaluation of TruScreen by the Ministry of Health as a screening protocol has commenced and government hospital purchases are expected in the third quarter.
Commercial performance in the first two quarters of the 2018 financial year is "roughly in line" with that of 2017, he said. While he did not provide any specific guidance he said "revenue is expected to grow significantly faster than expenses in the remainder of FY18," said Dillon.
The Auckland-based company reported a net loss of $1.3 million in the year ended March 31, from $692,077 a year earlier.
The NZAX-listed shares last traded at 17.5 cents and are down 2.8 per cent over the past 12 months.